When it comes to your Family and Children, only the very best will do. Our team of experienced professionals are here to deliver just that.

We are one of the largest Family & Child Law Departments in the South East and our dedicated and specialist team of Family & Child Law Solicitors have expertise in dealing with individuals; adoption and fostering agencies; Courts and Family Law organisations both in the UK and abroad.

Prior to entering into a civil partnership, it is possible to draw up an agreement which will make provision for the possibility of future relationship breakdown.

The contents of such an agreement can be as specific as you wish to make them, however in order to have the best chance of being taken into consideration by a court in the event that the partnership is dissolved, it is generally best to restrict the contents of agreements to matters like the division of assets and other financial matters.

As family law specialists, our team can advise civil partners on the drawing up of such agreements and in the event that a relationship has broken down, on seeking dissolution of the partnership.

Child maintenance will most likely be a factor in court proceedings to divide assets following a divorce or family breakup where children are involved.

Non Resident Parents

The parent who does not live with their child full time and who does not have day-to-day care of the child is known as the non-resident parent. They have a responsibility to pay child maintenance up until the child is 16 years old or 20 years old if they are in full-time education (but not higher than A level or equivalent).

How Do I Arrange Child Maintenance?

There are four ways of arranging child maintenance:

Make a Private Child Maintenance Agreement

Child maintenance can be agreed directly between the parties or through solicitors.  If such an agreement is reached, this can be recorded on a private agreement form through the Child Maintenance Options (formerly called the Child Support Agency (CSA).

It is important to note however, that such an agreement is not legally binding and thus if the non-resident parent decides to stop paying the agreed maintenance, the resident parent cannot enforce the agreement.

Make an Application to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS)

If an agreement cannot be reached between the parties, the resident parent can make an application to the Child Maintenance Service. There is a calculator available on the CMS’ website to work out the weekly amount of child maintenance: http://www.cmoptions.org/en/calculator/y.  However, there are certain situations when the Child Maintenance Service will not be able to assist, such as:

  • where either parent lives outside of the UK
  • when the non-resident parent’s net income is more than £104,000 per annum;
  • when a child has a disability or health condition
  • when a child is beyond secondary education

In these situations, an application to court will be required to address the issue of child maintenance.

Make an application for a Court Order

The resident parent can apply to the court to have the private agreement or application to the CMS recorded in a Court Order called a Consent Order to make the agreement legally binding.

If the court makes the order and the non-resident parent fails to pay the maintenance agreed in the consent order, the court will have the power to enforce the order.

Make an Application to Court under the Children Act 1989

Under the Children Act 1989 a parent can apply to the court for child maintenance to be paid by way of periodical maintenance payments, a lump sum or by a transfer of property into the sole names of one of the parents.

When deciding an application the court will consider all information in the case and in particular the welfare of the child and will look at the following factors:

  • the income, earning capacity, property and financial resources of both parties now and in the future
  • the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities of the parties now and in the future
  • the financial needs of the child
  • the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources of the child
  • the physical or mental disability of the child
  • how the child is or is expected to be educated or trained

Any financial provision that the court orders will last until the child reaches the age of 18 unless they are still in full-time education or there are special reasons why the child maintenance should be continued, for example if the child has a disability.

We Can Help

At MW Solicitors our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" including Resident Parents trying to negotiate the complex Child Maintenance System.

Our expert Family Lawyers have decades of experience working across all aspects of Family Law and specialise in helping parents to get the support in the form of Child Maintenance payments that their children are entitled to.  If you are involved in a Child Maintenance Claim or would like to discuss your options with our team of specialist Family Law and Child Maintenance Lawyers call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

 

There are many types of living together arrangements and we are here to advise you on how best to protect your interests when going in to a new relationship and to help you sort things out if there are difficulties within your relationship.

You might want to consider either a pre nuptial or cohabitation (Living Together) agreement covering each person’s expectations, usually financial, but can include, within reason, anything you wish. We also have good experience of preparing post nuptial or separation agreements.

At MW Solicitors we firmly believe that it is your money and that you should wherever possible, be the one to decide how it should be divided with your former partner. 

We strongly encourage out of Court settlements and our expert Family Lawyers are trained to help you use alternative ways of resolving issues such as collaborative law, mediation and arbitration.

What is Collaborative Law?


Georgina Earle-Hutton
Georgina Earle-Hutton
Partner & Collaborative Lawyer - Family & Child Law

Collaborative law is a process whereby you and your Solicitor work together with your former partner and his or her solicitor to resolve matters.  You all sign up to an agreement to use the process and not to resort to the Courts.  All the issues are decided at meetings at which everyone is present so that there can be every opportunity for ideas to be discussed and problems resolved with the direct assistance of your lawyers.  There is still the need for parties to give full details of their financial circumstances, but the face to face structure means that everyone will more easily understood each other’s position and the chances of reaching agreement will be significantly improved as the likelihood of misunderstanding is minimised. 

Any agreement ultimately reached will then be submitted to the Court for approval.  We have solicitors who are trained to offer this service to our clients.

What is Mediation?


Caroline Landes
Caroline Landes
Partner & Head of Children & Domestic Abuse

Mediation involves parties meeting with a trained mediator in an attempt to resolve the issues by full discussion.  The mediator helps them to identify the key issues, but allows the focus to be kept on the issues that the parties consider to be important.  The role of the mediator is to help parties to reach agreement and not to direct them towards a particular settlement.  The parties are encouraged to obtain legal advice throughout the process so they understand the legal framework and that their agreement can be given legal force.  Again the process requires parties to give full disclosure of their financial circumstances and the parties are then assisted to decide for themselves how they wish to resolve the issues rather than have a third party decide for them.  The length of the process will depend on the number of issues to be resolved and the willingness of the parties to compromise with each other. 

An agreement reached in mediation is not binding until it has been ratified in an order submitted to the Court for approval.  We have solicitors who are trained as mediators and also have close contacts with external mediation services to enable us to offer our clients the most convenient solution for them.

What is Arbitration?

The process of resolving disputes through the Courts can be a lengthy and expensive one and arbitration is a means of achieving a result in a more timely and cost effective manner.  Parties can agree to have an issue resolved by an arbitrator who is usually a retired Judge or senior lawyer who will consider the financial information produced by the parties, hear evidence and make a decision.  It is similar to the Court process but the decision is made by an arbitrator as opposed to a Judge, but the parties are not restricted by the rules of the Court process and can decide what issues are to be decided, what evidence is to be produced and the timescale for resolving the matter. 

We have contacts with arbitrators and can able to refer direct should client’s wish to use this process.

We Can Help

At MW Solicitors, our mission is to "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" including those couples going through the breakup of a marriage or civil partnership.  

Our team of dedicated Family Lawyers have years of experience dealing in all aspects of Family Law and can help you to resolve your dispute with your former partner in a pragmatic and cost effective way.  If you would like to speak to one of our specialist Family Solicitors call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

In cases of domestic violence you need support and guidance immediately.


Keeley Lengthorn
Keeley Lengthorn
Solicitor - Family & Child Law

We will respond quickly and efficiently to any request for advice, assistance and representation.

We can help you to apply for an injunction following verbal abuse, violence or threats of violence or harassment (including through social media). This can be in the form of a non-molestation order, an occupation order or a Protection from Harassment order which can be obtained to not only protect you (and any children) from violence, but also to sort out who stays in the home.

Same day appointments are available for the most urgent of cases whenever possible, and we can often get to Court the same day.

We Can Help

At MW, our mission is To make quality legal services accessible to everyone, especially those at risk of domestic violence.  If you would like to talk in confidence to one of our team of specialist family solicitors call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk

When you are separating, a real concern for many couples is what the financial outcome of the split will be. Questions about,  whether you'll be able to keep the house? or whether your children will have to change schools?,  or can you afford to pay the bills?, and what will happen about pensions? are the kind of questions we are often asked.

If you and your partner are married or in a civil partnership and can't agree on how to split property and sort out your finances you can apply to the courts for a financial remedy.

The courts are able to make a range of orders for cash payments, transfer of property or other assets, maintenance and pension sharing. The position is not the same for unmarried couples who have been living together.

We would encourage you to come and see us for an initial meeting, so you fully understand your options.  For most people a session with a mediator will be best before making an application to the court.  We would work with you alongside that process. Mediation isn’t right for everyone, or sometimes things drag on or you just cannot reach agreement, so a court application is then necessary.

After an application has been issued

You and your partner will be required to:

  • Complete a Form E which is a document setting out all your financial details
  • Produce copies of documents, such as bank or building society statements, payslips, valuations and accounts.

The court sets a First Directions Appointment (FDA)  before a District Judge about 12 weeks after you apply to court.  The judge will identify the issues and make orders to get the information needed to sort them out, for example to  value your assets. This has to be twelve weeks after the application is issued.

If things aren't sorted out at the FDA the next stage is the Financial Dispute Resolution appointment (FDR). You and your partner both attend this court hearing, where the District Judge, will encourage reach of you to reach an agreement on your finances and will usually indicate what he or she thinks would be a reasonable outcome. We will support you in preparing for the hearing and at court.

Only if the issues cannot be sorted out will there be a final hearing at a later date heard by a different District Judge who will hear evidence, consider the documents and give a judgment. It can be several months before a date for a final hearing. But it is possible to reach an agreement and submit a note of that agreement, called a consent order, to the judge for approval at any point. Most cases do resolve without a final hearing, which is expensive and stressful.

Some couples financial arrangements can be settled with a 'clean break', which means a lump sum payment and/or property transfer and no ongoing maintenance. A clean break ends the financial relationship between you and you partner. But support will still be payable for any dependent children. Sometimes there are not enough assets or another reason meaning regular maintenance payments from one person to the other is needed and then a clean break won’t be possible, these can be open-ended (during joint lives or until the person receiving the payments remarries or enters a new civil partnership) or for a fixed period of time.

We Can Help

At McMillan Williams, our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone", including those who are going through a divorce or legal separation.  Our solicitors are experts in all aspects of Divorce and Legal Separation including Mediation and Ancillary Relief.  Call us today on 020 3551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk. 

The prospect of a Divorce can be extremely daunting. The investment of one’s life and commitment can make the inevitable sometimes feel like an extremely costly emotional challenge.

At MW Solicitors we are here to help you understand the process and to support you at every stage of a Divorce with a minimum amount of delay, stress and acrimony.

What is the Divorce Process?

In England and Wales a divorce is granted on the grounds of “The irretrievable breakdown of ones marriage”.  and is established by reliance on one of five facts:

  • Adultery - The sexual intercourse between a man and woman.  This fact is not available to same sex partners or same sex marriages.

  • Unreasonable Behaviour - Behaviour which you cannot be expected to live with.

  • Desertion - Your Spouse intentionally deserted you for a period of at least 2 years.

  • Separation - Separation from your Spouse for 2 years and your Spouse needs to consent to the Divorce.

  • 5 Years of Separation - Your Spouse's consent to the Divorce is not required after a period of separation of 5 years or more.

Quickie Divorce

The concept of a quickie divorce is a misnomer. The process is in essence the same regardless of what fact you rely upon save that with 2 years separation the consent of your Spouse is required.

What are the Essential Elements to a Divorce

Before a Petition for Divorce can be presented to the Court you and your Spouse or Civil Partner must have been married for a minimum of one year.

What are the Legal Terms Used in a Divorce?

The party seeking a Divorce is the Petitioner and the party receiving the Divorce Papers is the Respondent.

Jurisdiction and Marriage Overseas

A Petition for Divorce can be presented to the Courts in England and Wales even if you and your Spouse married abroad. 

However, either one or both of you must have been habitually resident in England or Wales or have been domiciled in England and Wales for the prerequisite period of time prior to the presentation of the Petition to the Court. The jurisdiction of the Court can be difficult to understand but our expert Divorce Lawyers will be able to discuss this point with you during a Consultation Meeting.

Initial Contact with the Respondent

Our Divorce Solicitors are experts and will employ methods of good practice.  They will write to your Spouse before issuing Divorce Proceedings detailing the facts which are being relied upon for the Divorce and also dealing with who should pay the costs of the Divorce Proceedings.

Preparing and Issuing Court Papers

We will prepare the Divorce Petition and supporting documents.  We will require the original Marriage Certificate which along with the Petition and appropriate documents will be lodged at the Court together with a Court fee that you will need to pay.

Issuing The Divorce Petition and Service by Post upon the Respondent

The Court will post the Divorce Petition to your Spouse together with an Acknowledgement of Service Form to complete. Your Spouse will have 8 days in which to return the Acknowledgement of Service to the Court.

Failure to do so will result in our expert Divorce Lawyers taking the appropriate steps on your behalf to arrange alternate service of the Petition upon your Spouse or applying to proceed without further service.

Applying for a Decree of Divorce

Once an Acknowledgement of Service to the Petition has been returned by your Spouse, acknowledging that they do not intend to defend the Proceedings, an Application will be made on your behalf by our Experts for a Judge to consider your Divorce Proceedings as undefended.

However, if your Spouse chooses to defend the Proceedings your case will be contested and our specialised Divorce Lawyers will ensure that you understand the process and the cost implications.

Certificate of Entitlement to a Divorce

If the Judge is satisfied that you are entitled to a Divorce a Certificate will be issued giving the date for the Decree Nisi to be pronounced. This is the first Decree you must achieve before the final Decree Absolute. If the Judge is not satisfied that you are entitled to a Decree we will receive the Judges Refusal Certificate and our specialist Divorce Lawyers will respond accordingly to the matters raised by the Judge in the Refusal Certificate.

Decree of Divorce

There is no need for you to attend Court unless agreement has not been reached in relation to the legal cost of the Divorce Proceedings. If the matter falls to the Judge to decide the Court may set a separate date to deal with the issue of cost and our expert Divorce Lawyers will advise you accordingly.

Decree Absiolute

An Application for Pronouncement of Decree Absolute can be made 6 weeks and one day after the pronouncement of the Decree of Divorce.

On pronouncement your marriage or Civil Partnership is legally dissolved. However pronouncement of Decree Absolute has serious financial consequences such as the loss of your Spouse’s pension on their death.  As a result our expert Divorce Lawyers may advise you not to apply for Decree Absolute until any financial matters are either resolved between your Spouse and yourself or through an Order of the Court.

We Can Help

At MW Solicitors our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" including those who are going through the process of Divorce.

Our expert Divorce Lawyers have decades of experience and specialise in helping clients to resolve their divorce as pragmatically and as cost effectively as possible with the right financial outcome.  If you are considering or have already made up your mind that you want a Divorce and would like to discuss your options with one of our specialist Divorce Solicitors, call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

Whatever the nature of your dispute, you need it dealt with quickly and competently by understanding professionals

Whether through mediation and collaborative law, or court based proceedings, we can help find a resolution to your problems. You can talk to us in the strictest confidence, and we will work with you closely and sympathetically.

Depending on your situation you may be eligible for government funding called Legal Aid.  Legal Aid is still available for a number of family cases, but if you are not eligible for Legal Aid you may want to consider the following:

Family Fee Choices 

Many people are put off instructing a solicitor because they are worried about the fees they will have to pay.  We have created “Family Fee Choices” to deal with those concerns and make our fees as transparent as possible.  We leave the choice of what you want to agree to pay to you, by offering you several alternatives.  You simply decide which of our fee schemes works best for the level of legal support you feel you need and what fits your budget. 

  • Pay as you go - This scheme allows you to pay for each piece of advice you seek from us, for a fixed price.  We don’t go on the court record as acting for you, so you continue to receive all the letters and court orders from the court and the other parties’ solicitors.  We won’t write to anyone on your behalf.  You simply come and see us when you need us and pay an agreed fee for that meeting and an email confirming what we have discussed and what we recommend you do next.  You can come as many times as you like, for as much or as little advice as you like, paying for each time you come.

  • Pay as you go (court) - Allows you to pay for us each time you need us.  One of our in house team of court experienced solicitors or barristers, will agree a fee with you for the type of hearing you need help with.  We will meet you at court, represent you there, and then send you an email setting out what happened and what you need to do next.  And that’s it. You pay us one agreed fee, and as long as the funds are with us before the hearing we will be there for you.  Next time you need us, just call again.

  • Fixed fee support - We will go on the record as acting for you and will correspond on your behalf with the court and the other parties.  We will prepare documents on you behalf and write to you at regular intervals to let you know what is going on.  All we ask of you is that you pay us the fixed fee up front.  We will set out in a detailed letter what is covered within the fee you have agreed with us.  We won’t charge you a penny more than the agreed amount, unless the case develops in a way that takes it out of the scheme or you ask us to do more.  This will be set out in the letter to you before you decide.  No court hearings will be covered in this fee scheme.  Although, if you want us to help you at court, you can pay us on a “Pay as you go” basis.

  • Traditional full legal support – Where you pay us a regular payment on account each month, and we will bill you each month based on an hourly rate charged for each piece of work we do for you.  The rate is based on the level of experience of the solicitor or legal adviser assisting you.  We will undertake all steps and correspondence involved in your case, including representing you at court.  We will send you a detailed letter at the beginning of the case estimating the likely overall costs of the case to be incurred and also additional costs like court fees, process server’s fees, and doctor’s report fees.  As long as you continue to keep us in funds we will continue to act for you, but if you are unable to continue to pay us we reserve the right to stop acting for you.  We will see you in a fixed fee appointment to get the details of the case and then write to you setting out all the costs information before you decide if you want to instruct us in this basis.

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